Ever since becoming friends with Ashley Carlson I have had THE best support and opportunities. I'm currently finishing off her short story A Beauty's Bargain, I saved that till last, and working my way through It Begins Here. I'm loving this anthology and it's an amazing sight to see authors coming together and supporting each other like this. So today I have the pleasure of inviting the authors to my blog to answer five awesome questions, you'll want to stick around for this one!
1. How did you get into writing?
Ashley Carlson: I started dabbling in fiction during college, however I didn’t actually get serious about it until NaNoWriMo 2013. I had actually stumbled across a contest on Wattpad for anyone who completed and posted 50,000 words of their novel on the site, and it gave me the courage I needed to post something I’d written. I didn’t win the contest, but the fire inside me was ignited. Then last summer I wrote and published my novel and have published several novellas and short stories since then.
Amanda Oliver: My name is Amanda Olivier and I'm a bibliophile! I've always loved written language, ever since I was small. I was an early reader and fell in love with books above everything else. Over the years, I adored writing stories about everything from mermaids to mysteries. I got serious about my talent for writing in middle school and ever since I have been honing my craft. My English and creative writing teachers were the truest inspiration for writing. Their encouragement and constructive criticism fueled my passion to write what I enjoy. I love reading romance, so writing it was second nature to me. Writing has always been a part of who I am and I couldn't imagine my life without it!
Liz Meldon: I started writing when I first moved to Dubai. I was missing home, doing the whole “making new friends is tough” thing at age twelve, and the internet had become my home away from home for the first time. I ended up on a site called “Horseland” because girls at school used it. On said site, there were quizzes, which lead me to Quizilla (anyone?), upon which I found fanfiction for the first time. After reading some with a lot of comments, I remember thinking that I could do something like that, and I definitely wanted the comments. And that’s where it all began. I wrote some terrible Van Helsing fanfiction that I thought was absolutely genius, and things blossomed from there. There was a lot of fanfiction, followed by a fantasy-paranormal novel that I’ve blogged about in the past, and then more fanfiction, and now finally I’m writing in my own little worlds.
Lilly Raines: I don't think there was a specific moment when I became interested in writing. It's just something I've always done. I wrote (and illustrated) my first book in the fourth grade. I wrote stories for my friends while in middle school and high school, and I took every creative writing class my college offered. I've always loved telling stories; writing them down just made sense to me.
Marissa Fuller: I've been writing since I can remember, always preferring to live in my own head or in a book to playing outside or watching TV. But in April of last year I made the decision to stop working retail, building up some corporation's dream, to go after mine. I started working for an online press, and during last year's NaNoWriMo, I wrote my first complete book.
Amber Thomas: I've always been an avid reader and as one it seems I stumbled into writing at a very young age. I remember writing all over everything -even "writing" before I knew how to put letters together to make words and sentences. So, in college, I craved some creative outlet and my first blog was born. As life progressed into dating, engagement, marriage, I found the blog to be a comfortable, beautiful facet of life for me that quickly grew into opportunities to "meet" other writers online. In making writer friends, I found myself more invested in my writing life and so, we're here.
2. What's a typical writing day like for you?
A.C: It varies so much. I’ve been lucky in that I work freelance, so my schedule is always different. Sometimes I write in the morning when I wake up, and sometimes at night. I ALWAYS try to get 2,000 words in a day when I’m working on something new. I take breaks between manuscripts when I’ve got upcoming book releases, like for It Begins Here, so that I can devote time to marketing, maintaining my blog, and social media!
A.O: Most of my writing happens on weekends or in the evenings, usually with a sweet hot tea in hand. I listen to ambient rainfall music to drown out every distraction. I delve into writing after re-reading previously written pages, and making a few tweaks (I can't resist editing a little as I go). I am a huge fan of writing sprints, especially with friends, so I can reach at least 1,000 words a day. My favorite part of writing is losing myself in the words and letting inspiration flow!
L.M: It depends if I’m writing freelance or my own work. Freelance work tends to get put off until the last possible second, then I spend an hour or two meeting my daily word count. If I have the day to work on my own stuff, I’m up and at it pretty early, and I tend to take my time working through scenes, still hitting a set word count I create for myself at the start of the day.
The best advice I can give people looking to hit big word counts in a day is to take breaks. I write for 10-15 minutes, timed, then take a 6-8-minute break. It gives me a chance to stretch, get some water, readjust my posture. When you don’t do any of those things, you will start to run into problems with your body—which I have—and it’s just not fun.
L.R: I write almost every day, but the way I write depends on what I'm working on. All of my first drafts are handwritten, and I tend to roam around the house while I write. I might start out on the couch, but I'll end up on the deck. I also like to play video games while I'm working on a first draft. It gives my mind an opportunity to wander. I'll keep a notebook beside me and pause the game whenever inspiration strikes. All other drafts are done at my desk on my laptop in complete silence... aside from the crunching sounds my snacks make as I devour them. I always have snacks.
M.F: Besides being a writer, I'm also a student, and a wife. I always have a million things to do in a day, so I write more in blocks of time than in days. I hole up in my upstairs office, I open the window to a breeze, I put on and Ed Shearin vinyl or my Google playlist for my book, I waste a half an hour on Twitter, and then I write.
A.T: For the time being, writing has taken a back seat to my art (I got to create the cover for It Begins Here). With Christmas coming I'm busying myself with art-making, though I plan to fill December with words and a pouring out of all the ideas that I'm currently listing in my writing journal.
3. Best advice you've ever received regarding writing?
A.C: The best advice I’ve received was from my mom, regarding my first novel, The Charismatics. I was getting closer to publishing it and she had beta-read it for me and said, “I don’t really care about the main character. I don’t know what she looks like, her past, anything. I need to know about her, so I can care.” See, in my quest to STEER CLEAR of clichéd descriptions of my characters’ appearances and backgrounds, I’d missed that very real piece of how we learn to identify our characters—by their appearances and the type of person they’ve become because of their past. So it’s a balance.
A.O: The best advice is giving yourself permission to create. Don't be afraid to live a creative life. These ideas have inspired me from Elizabeth Gilbert's book BIG MAGIC.
L.M: The piece of advice that always makes me feel better is that a first draft just needs to be written. It doesn’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to write it in the proper order. You can ignore your dialogue tags. Everything. Just get something on the page. You can’t edit/revise/perfect a blank page.
L.R: The best advice I've ever received is to ignore all writing advice that does not apply to your writing style. I've seen countless posts that say you should cut your word count with each draft, but I've never been able to do that. My first drafts are short, maybe a hundred pages (if I'm lucky). If I cut thousands of words each draft, I'd never have a novel! My stories tend to grow with each round of edits, becoming more and more detailed until I have a fully fleshed out story. That's just how I write, and that's okay. You have to do what works for you.
M.F: Honestly, it is as simple as it is hard. Just write, even when you don't want to. Maybe ESPECIALLY when you don't want to. Writing is a habit. If you really want to create, it can't be on a whim. For best results: commit to yourself and your craft.
A.T: Find community. Find community period. Writing is so solitary and inside your own head and soul. Regardless of your genre, word-work can be the most draining thing a person does and we've signed up to do it for hours on end. It's exhausting. But -with all kinds of thankfulness- we've been granted amazing online spaces (Hi #NaNoWriMo) that allow quasi-personal relationships with other authors who know me as a writer, but aren't lodged in the personal space that offline life can create.
4. How did this collaboration come about, did you know each other beforehand?
A.C: I had an idea about starting an anthology early on this year, as a great way to collaborate with some of my favourite author friends and as a good marketing strategy for introducing our work to every author’s audience. So I reached out to my friend and author Marissa Fuller, and then we each recruited a couple of our close friends to organize It Begins Here. What’s really cool is that each one of us writes in a different genre, so I thought, why not remain in our genres but focus on something that happens in every story: change? Something dramatic is beginning for the characters in each story; love, loss, the appearance of an ability, fighting a drug addiction and more—it all, well, begins here. Ha! And then we will write an adjoining companion story for a second anthology, It Ends Here, which will release in early 2016. Guess what those stories will be about. ☺
A.O: I was invited to the anthology by the awesome and inspiring Marissa Fuller, who I met on Twitter! We became Twitter pals in 2014 and did NaNoWriMo sprints together. She enjoyed some lines I shared with her and the rest is history. She recommended me to Ashley Carlson to join the anthology this past spring and of course I accepted!
L.M: I only knew Ashley R. Carlson beforehand, and she was the one to sort of… sweep me into the fold. I’m so grateful to have met all these wonderful ladies, because they are all super talented and do great work. I can’t wait to see what they are doing in the future. I feel like we’re all each other’s cheerleaders now.
L.R: I knew Ashley pretty well prior to collaborating on the It Begins Here anthology. I'd beta read The Charismatics, and she'd critiqued some of my work, so we were already familiar with each other's writing. I'd spoken with Marissa a few times on Twitter, but I didn't really know any of the other girls until Ashley brought us all together. I wasn't sure what to expect, but after reading the other girls' stories, I realized we were creating something special. Each author brings something unique to the table, and everyone is so talented. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this and to have gained some amazing friends in the process.
M.F: This collab started when Ashley Carlson emailed me, expressing interest in getting a group of as yet unpublished authors to create an anthology together. So often, being published or not being published is all that could stand in the way of obtaining an agent. The idea was to create a platform for all of us to leap from, whether we decided to dive into the indie or traditional waters from there! And as for knowing each other, once Ashley and I had decided to move forward with the anthology, we began suggesting other authors whom we admired to join us. I've known Ashley, Lilly, Amanda, and Amber since NaNoWriMo 2014. I've been lucky enough to get to know J and Liz through this process!
A.T: I was invited by Marissa Fuller after we met through #NaNoWriMo last year. We wrote sprints together for days on end and, well, that bonds you for life. I have been thrilled to become connected to five other authors who are amazing, strong writers and women.
5. Working on anything new for 2016 that you can tell us about?
A.C: Yes, I am! I will be completing the second book in my award-winning The Charismatics’ series in NaNoWriMo 2015, so I anticipate a spring release for that. Also, the second anthology I mentioned is anticipated to be releasing in spring of 2016 as well, depending on our schedules. Exciting stuff! I am also working on a contemporary manuscript about love, dating and life in this current era for people in their 20s. It’s going to include a LOT of funny dating fails (yes, mostly inspired by my own experiences), but also the journey that young adults take regarding finding out what they want their life to mean, and what the meaning of a well-lived life is.
A.O: My main goal is to finish my anthology submission, After Sunrise, Part Two. My next project has been patiently waiting in the wings, and it's another historical romance. I hope to finish and query the new book sometime in Summer 2016!
L.M: Oh yes! I have a lot planned for 2016—maybe too much. The third book in my Lovers and Liars series is slated to hopefully release in the summer. The first book of my new paranormal romance serial, Games We Play, is also scheduled to debut. I’ve got a lot of little short stories/novellas that I’m interested in writing. Plus, we can’t forget the second anthology that all us ladies are working on with the aim of publishing in the spring. Lots on the horizon for 2016!
L.R: I'm currently working on a novel entitled Smoke & Monsters, which is connected to my short story in the It Begins Here anthology in super-secret ways. All right, I'll tell you! They have the same main character, but in Smoke & Monsters Ness is an adult and dealing with some creepy stuff. As you'll learn in Visions & Violets, Ness has a special talent, and that talent has torn her life apart in many ways. She struggles because she knows she can help others, but helping them always leads to hurting herself. Ness is a tough gal, and I've had so much fun writing her. I can't wait for everyone to meet her.
M.F: Absolutely! 2016 will have me editing the book I'm currently finishing in NaNoWriMo, How We Got Here. It's about a girl who's mom has died, and she's sent to the south where her mom grew up, to live with an uncle she didn't even knew she had. There, she discovers how little she knew about her mom, and how little then she knows about herself. I hope to start shopping it around to agents by the summer!
A.T: I'm hoping 2016 will hold a completed manuscript of my first full-length novel. Fiction is, in fact, not my genre of choice but, instead, memoir and after completing a messy manuscript in November of 2014, I grew weary of my piece so I set it aside. Here's to hoping 2016 will hold the tenacity to make the mess a real, live novel.
Ashley - Thank you Rhianne! I’m so excited for your thoughts about It Begins Here.
So I am in awe of these brilliantly talented ladies. I think 2016 will be a brilliant year for us all. You'll see my goals for 2016 around January 31st. Make sure you're there! If you haven't got your hands on it, go buy It Begins Here now! It was released today and I am positive you'll love it.
Find the girls on twitter here: